World War I Memorial Bells Project

The Cathedral Bells

The Cathedral bells are part of the heritage of Bradford and their call a constant reminder of a Christian presence that has existed in Bradford for almost 1,500 years.  The ten World War I Memorial Bells commemorate the impact of the First World War on people locally, nationally and internationally.  Their very existence is a lasting testimony to the tenacity of Bradford’s people, from all walks of life. These people came together to raise the money for the Memorial Bells in order to ensure that those who gave their life for others in the Great War, were remembered and that a peace hard won would be valued whenever the bells rang out. It is fitting that in the year of the centenary of the end of the First World War, the Memorial Bells, have been refurbished with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, ensuring that they will continue to ring out across the City well into the Cathedral’s second century. Their peal a welcoming call to the people of Bradford, of all faiths and none, reaffirming the presence of the Cathedral at the heart of the City and remembering those who were lost and those who lost loved ones, in the First World War.

Cathedral Bell
A Bradford Cathedral bell!

The Launch of the World War I Memorial Bells Exhibition

The 12th June 2018 saw the launch of the World War I Memorial Bells Exhibition at the Cathedral, with a large number of guests in attendance to witness the re-dedication of the Bells, to learn more about the heritage of the Cathedral and to listen to the Bells ring out as they first did on the 1st October 1921:

“Over the valley, to those at football matches, at work, at their business, in mills and at home.”

Yorkshire Observer Newspaper, October 3rd 1921

The launch event commenced with an introduction by Dean Jerry, Bradford’s Lord Mayor Zafar Ali, formally opened the exhibition and then the Cathedral’s young Community Heritage Consultants/Volunteers took over. These volunteers are a group of 25 children, aged 9 and 10, from Lapage Primary School. For them this event was the culmination of a lot of hard work involving learning about World War I, the Cathedral’s Memorial Bells, Joe Hardcastle (more of him later) and the history of change ringing. They were involved in research using documents and artefacts from the Cathedral archive in school, participated in a bell ringing workshop and spent time exploring the heritage of the Cathedral in the building itself. They acted as exhibition guides on the evening and delighted guests with their enthusiasm and knowledge.

The exhibition pre-view was followed by Evensong and the blessing of the Bells by the Dean – who braved the Tower steps – the guests watched a live stream on the huge screen located near the font.  This was followed by the bells ringing out across the City and strawberries and cream for all of those present who were not fasting. It was an amazing community event .

West end
Cathedral nave

The Research

The research for the World War I Memorial Bells Project was undertaken in the main by volunteer researchers from the community, including volunteers who are retired, young history under – graduates and children in local primary schools. Special thanks must go volunteer researchers Sue Langdale, Dr Gill Overend, Philippa Hadwen, Barbara Carling and Year 5 children from Lapage Primary School, who played such a huge part in discovering and iinterpreting the hidden stories of the Cathedral Bells, the local community, bell ringing and bell ringers.

Cathedral Bell
Cathedral Bell

Visit the exhibition and read the free World War Memorial Bells booklet, to find out more about what our volunteer researchers discovered; below is a taster, there is much more to explore when you visit the Cathedral and the exhibition.

The World War I Memorial Bells

Many Bradford men and boys lost their lives in the First World War. For example the 1st and 2nd Bradford Pals, (part of the West Yorkshire Regiment) suffered 1,770 casualties in one hour, as they attacked the heavily fortified village of Serre on the Somme, in France, on the 1st July 1916.  Many of the men and boys who lived, worked, socialised and joined the army together, also died together. Their loss had a huge impact on the City and the people they left behind.

The sacrifice and the freedom and the peace hard won by those who fought and died, is commemorated in memorials around the Cathedral, and in particular through the World War I Memorial Bells.

There are ten World War I Memorial Bells. Each bell bears an inscription, sometimes it is the name of a person or group of people that the bell commemorates, or an extract from the Bible, or an inscription that details those who collected or gave money. Sometimes it is a combination all of these. Their inscriptions record the people of Bradford’s acknowledgement of the sacrifice and their gratitude for the blessings of victory, peace and freedom, affirming:

“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13

The money for most of the Bells was raised by subscription. Money was given by members of the Cathedral congregation, the Sunday school teachers, sidesmen and the mothers of Bradford; the Civic Bell bears the name of the Lord Mayor Anthony Gadie, but the money for its casting was raised through lobying the ordinary people of Bradford to give money, almost all of whom had been affected by the Great War in some way.

St. Aidan’s Chapel

Joe Hardcastle

The story of the World War I Memorial Bells is also the story of a Joe Hardcastle (pictured bottom right aged 18, in 1888 in the photograph below) and his love for the Cathedral bells and bell ringing.  Joe was a bell ringer at the Cathedral for 60 years, starting his bell ringing career at the Parish Church of St Peter around 1888, aged 18. He became secretary of the band of bell ringers in 1907. He kept a detailed journal spanning 44 years, until he retired due to an accident in 1951.  Joe’s journal is a  real ‘bell ringer’s tale’ It tells the story of bell ringers and bell ringing at the Cathedral and explains how the World War I Memorial Bells came into existence, developing from an idea into a reality. 

World War I and the Memorial Bells Workshops 

In this session participants will find out about the history of bells in the Cathedral and compare the use of bells, to the use of call and response in other religious traditions. They will use artefacts, documents and exhibition materials to find out about the World War I Memorial Bells and the story of Bradford bell ringer Joe Hardcastle. 

Volunteering Opportunities

One of the main aims of this Project was to increase community engagement with our shared  heritage, and  to attract  people from  a range of ethnic and social backgrounds as volunteers, particularly young people. The Project has been very successful in achieving this aim to date, but we still need you!  People of all faiths and of no faith, are  welcome in this amazing building and we’d like you to join us in exploring the heritage of Bradford and its people.

Would you like to to learn more about the heritage of the Cathedral?  Would you like to volunteer to help maintain and catalogue the Cathedral’s extensive archive?  Would  you be interested in being involved in the continuing research?  We need even more exhibition guides and welcomers would you like to join us?

Most of all we need more bell ringers to enable the refurbished World War I Memorial Bells ring out across the City. 

Interested in getting involved?

For more information please contact the Heritage Education Officer, Diane Hadwen

Telephone: 01274 77 77 40

Skip to content